Way back in the day, when I was employed full time as a pastor, I often said that there was an incredibly fine line between marketing and ministry.
As youth guys we toed that line all the time…creating events that would have mass appeal to a teen target market in order to get them to attend:
- All night scavenger hunts
- Beach trips
- Ice Cream Wars
- Sanctuary baseball
- Terminator laser tag
- Disneyland trips
…just to name a few. We did all in the name of ministry and growth.
Having spend much of the last couple decades in marketing and watching the church from this side I’m afraid I can’t tell where the line is any longer.
It seems to me we’ve moved from trying to differentiate the church from the world into trying to differentiate one denomination from another, one local body from another, one style from another and of course the easiest way to differentiate is to show why “yours” is better than “theirs”.
Funny thing is that on top of that you hear a LOT of complaints about a consumer mentality that has “crept into” the church.
By way of contrast consider this little biblical nugget:
Acts 5: 12-16 (The Message)
Through the work of the apostles, many God-signs were set up among the people, many wonderful things done. They all met regularly and in remarkable harmony on the Temple porch named after Solomon. But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both. They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on stretchers and bedrolls, hoping they would be touched by Peter’s shadow when he walked by. They came from the villages surrounding Jerusalem, throngs of them, bringing the sick and bedeviled. And they all were healed.
Seems like the objective of growth was accomplished without marketing.
Now I’m not saying we ought not be creative. I’m not saying we ought not create programs that appeal to our community. I just wonder what happened to the line.
How do you think marketing and ministry ought to play together? What does “customer loyalty” look like in the church?